In America, we typically look ahead, rather than behind. Once a holiday is over, the decorations are ripped down and packed away, and it’s off to plan the next big event. But, just give me a moment to offer a couple of thoughts about Easter, as I’m still celebrating.
Easter has not been my favorite holiday, aside from maple cream flavored Easter eggs (which I can no longer eat). This was especially true for the last 20-some years, as Easter reminds me of my Dad’s death. For most of my life I have tended to separate holiday celebrations from any religious significance, being one of those who sees all days alike (Rom. 14:5), in spite of having a very incarnational theology. However, over the last couple of years I have become more and more incarnational, as well as liturgical. Christmas has taken on a new meaning for me, as has Easter. I realize that the dates are somewhat arbitrary, but that’s not the point; the point is our meaning and purpose in the celebration. As it turns out, Easter has become my favorite holiday.
Easter has always remained the focus of the Eastern liturgical year, while in the West Christmas took precedent. I honestly can see both points; the incarnation is astounding. On the other hand, the Resurrection is the foundation of our faith; as Paul pointed out in 1 Cor. 15, if Christ didn’t rise from the dead, then neither shall we – and then we are to be “pitied more than all men.”
This year, I was struck by a new realization that also emphasizes the importance of Easter: atheists hate the Easter holiday. This surprised me at first; I expected them to brush it off and go about life as normal. After all, most Evangelical Christians don’t really put a lot of stock in the day itself. And, like Christmas, Easter has it’s share of non-religious aspects: chocolate bunnies, egg hunts, and so on. We all know these accoutrements come from pagan fertility celebrations, so what’s the big deal?
Joe over at Debunking Christianity posted an “Easter Sunrise Blasphemy” which gives his perspective. Then, as I perused a few more atheist blogs Easter morning, I started to see a trend. Whether it’s the whole concept of the cross and what that means – sin, judgment and death – or the meaning of the Resurrection, it apparently hits a nerve wity many atheists, much more so than Christmas. Perhaps it’s that Easter is exclusive (even though most of us believe Christ died and rose for all mankind); or, perhaps it’s that Easter is intolerant of other faiths, or non-faiths. Or, perhaps Easter is simply the watershed issue in Christianity: either Christians are wrong and celebrating in vain, or we’re right and non-Christians are missing out.
Whatever the issue, as I read through these posts, I kept thinking, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of salvation to all those who believe.” Easter is exclusive, in that only those who have experienced resurrection can understand and share in the celebration. Easter is also intolerant and divisive; it says boldly, “we’re right” (and by default, “you’re wrong”). Or, in other words, “I’m resurrected (and you’re just dead).” It is the watershed of Christianity. And I, for one, make no apologies for this; in fact, I celebrate Easter, along with millions of other Christians. This is not to say that I don’t have sorrow for those like Joe who say, “I hate Easter.”
Easter – the Gospel – also happens to be inclusive: It is available to all. However, as it turns out, Easter is only exclusive in that requires death in order to celebrate it.
Ay, there’s the rub…